Gil Pasternak launches a series of workshops on Jewish and Polish interconnected heritage in partnership with Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation and Project Polska

In partnership with President of Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation Miriam Levene and Chair of Project Polska Barbara Czyznikowska, on 5 November 2019 Gil Pasternak launched and delivered a community engagement project on Polish and Jewish interrelated heritage. Entitled “Photo Storytelling: Poles, Jews and Our Interrelated Heritage”, the project was designed to help build social, cultural, and interpersonal bridges between the otherwise largely segregated UK-based Polish and Jewish communities. It employed disposable cameras, digitisation, and digitalisation practices as a means to bring together participants from both sociocultural groups to explore each other’s history, beliefs, values, and everyday realities through carefully considered photographic storytelling. Consisting of a series of workshops for approximately 20 individual volunteers from the two communities, who have been recruited via an open call, the project established an environment and the means for all participants to share, analyse, and discuss photographs that each of them produces in-between meetings. Assisted and facilitated by the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Manchester, Project Polska, Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation, and De Montfort University, the workshop’s conveners employed digital technology to generate a communal, inclusive atmosphere as well as a way to direct attention to details that may escape the participants’ attention when engaging with their photographic paper-prints. In creating and sharing photographs about their homes, families, and domestic as well as communal lives, participants entered into dialogue on their origins, backgrounds, cultural legacies and social realities alike. They touched on each other’s perceived knowledge, stereotypes, differences, and similarities to explore and understand the multiplicity of personal, historical, and cultural connections to the Polish country. Learning about the initiative through our online advertisements, a few hours before the launch BBC Radio Leicester invited the three workshop conveners to discuss its scope and intentions live, as part of the daily radio programme Jimmy and Summaya of 5 November 2019. The project will culminate in an online digital exhibition of contributions from the Jewish and Polish communities, intended to nurture appreciation of their cultural worlds as well as sensitivity to the role digital technology plays in framing, negotiating, and redefining cultural heritage more broadly.

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